Photo: Rachel Ploss

The Future of the Philanthropic Sector Spring Course: Reflections from Rachel Ploss

Posted on March 29, 2020 by Rachel Ploss, experiential learning with The Patterson Foundation
Editor’s Note: The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and The Patterson Foundation are partnering on “The Future of the Philanthropic Sector,” a special topics course for the school’s students during the spring 2020 semester. The course has connected students to The Patterson Foundation’s innovative approach to philanthropy and nonprofits in the Sarasota area engaged in the Foundation’s initiatives through interactive online experiences.

When you are lucky enough to receive an opportunity to gain experiences for your career, I think your goal should be to learn from it and grow as much as you can. At least, that was my goal when I was selected to be a consultant for the Margin & Mission Ignition initiative for the Visual Arts Center in Punta Gorda, Florida. I wanted to work on this initiative because I wanted a challenge, and it scared me the most out of the three initiatives we could choose to focus on for our course.

I am only twenty years old, and I have zero consulting experience. Coming up with a plan in one day for Visual Arts Center to gain earned income was scary. I did not think I would be good enough to be on the initiative, but then I realized that this was the best way for me to grow and learn and push myself. I am so glad I chose this initiative because I grew beyond my expectations, and it is now an experience I’ll carry with me forever.

After watching the webinar prepared by The Patterson Foundation, with the initiative consultants for Margin & Mission Ignition, I knew that I would be in good hands for help and guidance. The webinar was funny and energetic, and all three leaders were quite knowledgeable, which came through during our virtual trip. I got to work closely with Larry Clark, and he provided me with great guidance and feedback throughout my process. It is because of his guidance and suggestions that I had such a great experience. By the end of the week, I put together some of my best work to present.

By working closely with the Visual Arts Center Executive Director, Janet Watermeier, I really got to know the organization within two days. They had an earned-income opportunity to increase revenue through their Art & Supply Store by enhancing their strategic partnerships. Working with Janet, I discovered that the Visual Arts Center has a strong alliance with the public schools as well as a goal to increase youth engagement with the Visual Arts Center. My idea was to build on that alliance and secure funds from a donor to sponsor an art teacher at each school with $500 that they could use to purchase quality art supplies for their students from the Art & Supply Store. This idea would give funding to schools that are typically in need of funding and would provide students with quality supplies to be creative and embrace STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). I developed this idea with Janet over a long day and put together a PowerPoint presentation to present this plan in detail about how the Visual Arts Center could implement this project in a pilot phase and eventually expand to more schools and even youth clubs to increase revenue.

It was one of the best presentations I have ever done, and it is an experience I will carry with me throughout my philanthropic career.

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